September 30, 2006
I’m just back from the annual Open Education Conference sponsored by the Center for Open and Sustainable Learning and led by the brilliant David Wiley on the lovely and scenic campus of Utah State University in Logan, Utah. The good news is Wiley’s conference once again brought together, I dunno, maybe 100 or so leading academics who are working together to create and use high-quality, free, customizable learning materials in place of costly proprietary educational products, including course management systems and textbooks. The recent progress in these areas discussed in many of the panel presentations is remarkable. The bad news, however, is that for the second year running I was once again the only attendee who has any formal connection to a community college anywhere in the United States, with the exception of one of our dedicated Deans from the Foothill-De Anza Community College District who attended last year. So here is the picture: we’ve got some of the best brains from schools of higher education in the country, MIT, Rice, UCB, Carnegie Mellon and others, collaborating to create totally free learning materials using methods that make these resources not only free but also of higher quality owing to their open and collaborative production methodology. These groups have already created free, high-quality textbook substitutes in many fields, including science, math and philosophy. And the group that could best help tailor these materials and get them into the classrooms where financially needy students would benefit from them the most are still, years now after this opportunity became both obvious and apparent, missing in action.